Okay, so technically, Actroid-F got a "brother," not a boyfriend. Even more technically, Actroid-F got another Actroid-F in a different wig. Yeah, weird. But I mean, when it comes down to it, what's the difference? She/he/it also got some fancy new eyes with cameras in them:
Now, you and I may think that these robots are borderline uncanny, but when they went on duty in a hospital in Japan, patients actually kinda liked them.
"When we tested the robot in a hospital, we asked 70 subjects if having an android there made them feel uneasy. Only 3 or 4 people said they didn't like having it around, and overall, quite a lot of people said they felt this robot itself had an acceptable presence."
Hmmm. My guess is that if Actroid-F were to find itself in a hospital here in the U.S., the reaction would be substantially different. Robots (especially anthropomorphic humanoids) still have a bit of a hill to climb when it comes to public perception, and from what I understand we don't have as much of a positive history with them as you can find in Japanese culture. The researchers themselves seem to agree:
"When this robot went to a hospital for a month during a trial, we felt lonely, as if someone had moved out. Another factor is the sense of immersion this robot gives. When it imitates your movements, you gradually feel it's become your alter ego. When the robot's being photographed, you feel as if you're being photographed. You don't get that kind of feeling of togetherness with other robots."
Hmmmmmm. Yeah, I think a "feeling of togetherness" with an Actroid would be a stretch, at least for me, but then, I haven't had the pleasure (it's pleasure, right?) of spending a lot of time with one.
Evan Ackerman is the senior writer for IEEE Spectrum’s award-winning robotics blog, Automaton. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and emerging technology, covering conferences and events on every single continent except Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and South America (although he remains optimistic). In addition to Spectrum, Evan’s work has appeared in a variety of other online publications including Gizmodo and Slate, and you may have heard him on NPR’s Science Friday or the BBC World Service if you were listening at just the right time. Evan has an undergraduate degree in Martian geology, which he almost never gets to use, and still wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, rehabilitating injured raptors, and playing bagpipes excellently.